Chimo: Canada's Attempt at a New National Greeting

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The long-standing friendly rivalry between Canada and the U.S. began when the real fighting stopped after the War of 1812. And ever since, Canadians have complained of seeping Americanization—in their books, magazines, cars—advertising. Even Johnny Canuck, Canadians’ cartoon hero, was supposed to be a younger cousin to Uncle Sam.

In 1969, Canadians' favourite politician, Pierre Trudeau, told reporters in Washington, D.C., “Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”

Like it or not, we’re pretty close.

Say Chimo

Attempts to shirk the reach of American culture (and British parenting) and establish a truly Canadian one produced a lesson in politics.

In 1967, politicians shoved the word “chimo” into the Canadian English lexicon in an attempt to create a national greeting. Like, “Chimo, do you want to hang out at my cabin this weekend?” “Cool, I’ll pick you up at seven, chimo.” Yes, it’s a one-word phrase to mean hello, goodbye or “let’s drink!”; taken from the northern Canadian Inuktitut language as an act of federal government.

Evidence that the word "chimo" ever existed can be experienced at the Chimo Hotel in Ottawa, heard by toasting Canadian Military Engineers, or as the name of Toronto jazz/rock super group—“one of the shortest lived great bands of all time”—Chimo!

Canadian Idol

The folks behind Canadian Content (CanCon) make sure that a strict percentage of radio play and TV shows aired in the country are Canadian made. For radio that means 40 percent of airtime goes to Canadian musicians—a good thing for Celine Dion fans—and 50 percent of prime time TV.

Forcing broadcasters in the late 1960s to include Canadian-made sitcoms, game shows and dramas among popular imports from the U.S. and Britain helped undermine the possibility of them being any good.

Look no further than the 1970 sitcom The Trouble with Tracy, considered one of the worst shows ever. It had an all-Canadian cast, but was set in New York to win over U.S. sales, according to Pip Wedge, president of the Canadian Communications Foundation. During the season it ran, they managed to crank out 130 shows; filming seven in five days.

See also: Canadian Idol, The Bachelor Canada, The Amazing Race Canada, etc.

Burning Down the House

Ask an American about the War of 1812 and they might shrug and mention the Star Spangled Banner. Canadians know it better as the war they won against America in which they burned down the White House.

Even though Canada was technically a British colony at the time, it’s still fresh in the mind of Canadians as one of the country’s greatest feats. This video explains everything:

History buffs would say that the outcome of the War of 1812 was more or less a tie. But don’t tell that to the Canadian government, which is spending $28 million on re-enactments and statues for the war’s bicentennial, going on now until 2014. As Heritage Minister James Moore told the CBC, people can debate whether it’s money well spent, but "it's an essential role for government to remind Canadians what unites us."

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July 1, 2013 - 12:01pm
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